Chloe waited with Clément wrapped tightly in her arms. Clément had stopped crying, and his body was limp in Chloe's arms. Chloe tried to keep herself calm and gently rocked him, whispering a lullaby in his ear. Suddenly the phone rang. Chloe got up, making Clément whimper. "Shush...it's just the phone."
She gently put Clément down on the couch and ran to the phone.
"It's me. What's happening? What is the problem?"
"Lo..." Chloe stopped, trying to hold her tears back.
"Chloe, what's going on? Come on, you're really scaring me."
Chloe took a deep breath, and glanced at Clément who was lying on his side in a corner of the couch. His body was folded in the fetus position and his eyes were looking ahead, their expression almost blank.
"I came home, and I found Clément alone in the tub. He had been there for, who knows how long, and he was screaming. I took him out, and...." Chloe stopped again, the images of Clément's injuries almost too much to bear.
"Damn it Chloe, what is it?" asked Laurence angrily, fear taking the best of her.
"I'm sorry...he has cigarette burns on his ankles and a large bruise going from his lower back to the middle of it..."
"Where is my dad?" asked Laurence coldly.
"He apparently left earlier for England. So, Beatrice was alone with him...Lo..."
"I'm going to kill her," growled Laurence.
"I'm taking him out of here. I called my friend Vincent, he is coming to get us...that's the number I gave you...Lo, I'm taking him to the emergency room..."
"I'm on my way."
"It's no use to rush. You don't even know where I'll be by the time you get here. I'm getting him out of here in case Beatrice comes back. We'll stay at Vincent's...I'll call you from the hospital and give you directions to his house." Chloe felt Laurence's hesitation. "Laurence, this is the best solution. There is no use in having you drive down here like a maniac and get into a car accident. Please," begged Chloe.
Laurence sighed, realizing that Chloe was right. "You're right, but please call me as soon as you get to the hospital and know what's happening."
"How is he?"
Laurence's voice trembled over the phone. "Take care of him?"
"I will. I'll call you. I love you, Lo." With those words, she hung up the phone.
"Well, well, well, isn't that sweet?" Chloe spun around, looking frantically through the dark room for the voice. Beatrice stepped put of the shadows and faced Chloe. "Planning on going somewhere?" She asked with a mad look on her face.
Chloe looked at Clément who hadn't moved from his previous position on the couch, and back at Beatrice. She didn't answer and started walking toward Clément, only to be stopped by Beatrice. With the closeness of Beatrice, Chloe smelled alcohol and cigarettes. "You're drunk, get away from me."
Beatrice laughed. Her laugh resonating through the high ceilings of the house, making her sound crazy, and giving a chill to Chloe. Chloe took a deep breath and tried to keep her voice calm and low.
"Beatrice, I think you've done enough damage. Let me go."
The request seemed to register in Beatrice's alcoholic mind, and she moved slightly to the side. Chloe rushed to Clément and picked him up. "Let's go wait outside." Suddenly Beatrice came rushing toward them and tried to grab Clément, barely giving time to Chloe to jump out of the way. "Beatrice, what are you doing? You're scaring him," yelled Chloe, losing her cool. Clément started crying again, and hung on to Chloe's neck desperately. "Get away from us. I have to take him to the hospital, and if I were you, I'd make myself very humble because once I tell them who did this to him, you are done for," said Chloe harshly while slowly backing up toward the door and grabbing the diaper bag.
The doorbell suddenly rang, making Beatrice jump. Chloe kept on backing up her eyes fixed on Beatrice who was still standing in the family room. Chloe opened the door, and Vincent stepped in.
"Hello. What was the emergency?" asked Vincent with a smile. He saw Clément glued to Chloe, Beatrice standing in the family room with her hair disheveled, and black strands of make up on her cheeks, and Chloe's tense face. "Chloe, what's happening?" he asked with urgency.
"Take us out of here," said Chloe, still looking at Beatrice, waiting for her to make her next move. Chloe stepped out, and closed the door. "Come on, hurry, where is your car?" She asked, rushing down the front steps.
"Across the street."
"Let's go," Chloe took off running, throwing the bag to Vincent and tightening her grip on Clément. They got into the car. "To the closest hospital," she said, while climbing in the back with Clément.
Vincent started the car and drove it down the street. "There is one few blocks away. Would you mind telling me what's happening here?"
"Sorry...the woman you saw is Beatrice. We suspected that she beats Clément, but weren't sure....got the proof tonight." Chloe kissed Clément's forehead. "Just a few more minutes pumpkin."
Vincent parked the car in front of a white building. "Okay, come on."
They rushed through double doors. The smell of the hospital almost made Chloe gag. They walked right up to a nurse, Chloe still holding Clément. Before reaching her, Vincent stopped Chloe. "Listen, what about you speak English and I translate. I know your French is better than it was, but..."
"Fine," answered Chloe, going up to the nurse. The nurse smiled at them and asked what the problem was. Vincent explained that he was going to translate, and Chloe jumped in explaining everything from the moment she found Clément in the tub to Vincent's arrival.
"Chloe, slow down, I need time to translate." Chloe nodded and Vincent translated everything to the nurse. As the story was told to her, her face showed consternation and sadness. She said something in French and handed Vincent a form to fill.
"What did she say?"
"To go sit down and fill that out. Someone is going to take care of us shortly."
"What do you mean fill that out. This is an emergency damn it, can't they see that?" Chloe asked angrily.
"Chloe, look around. Some people are in worse pain than Clément. Trust me, someone is going to help, but until then doing as she said is our best bet."
Chloe looked around the room. It was filled with moans from people in pain, the speaker was going non-stop, calling for one doctor after the other, and the nurses were rushing around trying to get everyone taken care of. "Okay, let's fill this out."
She told Vincent the information, and he wrote it down, writing an impossible task for her with Clément in her arms. Vincent got up to give the form to the nurse, and sat back down next to Chloe.
"Vincent, can you go and call this number for me? It's Laurence...Clément's sister. Tell her not to do anything yet because we don't know how long we are going to be here for. Thanks." She gave Vincent the number and settled back on her seat. Vincent came back after a few minutes.
"She said okay, but if she doesn't hear from you in the next two hours, she is coming no matter what...I gave her the directions to my apartment. I'm not letting you guys go back there with this mad woman."
Chloe looked at Vincent and for the first time this evening and smiled. His attempt at chivalry was sweet, almost funny. "Thanks," she whispered tiredly.
Another twenty minutes went by before they were called. Vincent was told to wait for them in the waiting room. "I need him to translate," yelled Chloe, panicking.
"It's okay Chloe, they are saying that the doctor speaks English. You'll be fine. I'll wait."
Chloe looked at Vincent, nodded and followed the nurse out of the room, still carrying Clément. They were put into a small white room and told to wait for the doctor.
A man in his fifties with white silver hair and a jovial face entered the room, introducing himself as Doctor Frank.
"I was told that you don't speak French very much."
"What about..."He looked at the form in his hand. "...Clément?"
"He understands both."
"How old is he?" said the doctor, flipping through pages.
"Two," answered Chloe.
"Okay, let's take a look at him. Could you sit him up on the table, please?" asked the doctor, smiling.
"Sure." Chloe gently put Clément down on the table, but he refused to let her go and started screaming. She picked him back up and smoothed him by whispering tender words in his ears. "Shush, it's okay sweetheart. The doctor is going to help you feel better. I'm right here, I promise. I'll hold your hand, okay?" Clément nodded with teary eyes, and Chloe slowly put him back down on the table.
"I read that his back is injured...I need you to take his top off."
Chloe nodded, and slowly removed Clément's pajama top. Every time she moved she made sure a part of herself was in body contact with Clément. Doctor Frank came and stood next to Clément.
"Hi, Clément. I heard you're hurt. I'm here to make you feel better. Would you like that?" he asked, kneeling at eye level with Clément. Clément sniffled and nodded. "Great. I'm going to have to touch the area where it hurts. I'll be as gentle as possible."
Chloe looked at Doctor Frank and how he interacted with Clément. He spoke to him as if Clément understood every word, without babying him, but at the same time with gentleness. Doctor Frank passed his hand lightly on Clément's bruise area, making Clément flinch and whimper. He then removed his socks.
"Clément, I'm going to have to take off your bandages, so I can take a look at your burns. It's going to hurt a little, but I'll be as quick as I can." Clément tightened his grip on Chloe's hand while Doctor Frank removed the bandages, but he didn't cry.
"What did you put on them?" asked Doctor Frank to Chloe while examining the burns.
"Good. Nothing much could have been done at this point. I need to x-ray his back. I really don't think anything is broken, otherwise you wouldn't be able to pick him up like that, but I want to make sure. I also need to talk to you one on one. Did anyone else come with you?"
"Yes, but Clément doesn't know him at all."
Doctor Frank seemed to think for a minute. "Let's get those x-rays taken care of first, we'll deal with the rest after that."
Chloe explained to Clément what was going to happen, but Clément seemed to have given up any kind of fight and let himself be taken to the x-ray room. Chloe stayed with him every step of the way. After the x-rays, they were asked to wait for the doctor's diagnosis in another white room, this one much larger than the other one, and had a bed and an armchair. Chloe sat on the chair with Clément falling asleep in her arms.
Doctor Frank walked into the room carrying the x-rays. "Okay, it's what I thought, nothing is broken, just badly bruised. We're going to give him something for the pain, so he can have a restful night of sleep. Is he sleeping?" asked Doctor Frank, looking at Clément. Chloe nodded. Doctor Frank lowered his voice, and asked. " Can you put him down on the bed?"
Chloe got up and softly put Clément down as to not wake him up. Doctor Frank stepped in the corridor and motioned for Chloe to follow him. She left the door opened and made sure she stayed at ear range in case Clément would wake up.
Doctor Frank smiled at Chloe. "We have to keep him in observation until tomorrow morning. We'll set up a bed for you in his room. We also had to call social services and the police."
"What?" exclaimed Chloe.
"What you described to the nurse is a case of child abuse. The police will come and take your statement on his mother, and then tomorrow morning social services will ask you questions. You re not related to Clément, so we can't release him to you ..."
"But, I don't..."
Doctor Frank interrupted her. "I saw the bond you and Clément have. The only reason social services is not here right now, taking Clément away to a foster family for the night, is because I told them he would be fine with you, and I would make you spend the night here. Does Clément have any other relatives besides his mother?"
"Yes, a sister. I called her earlier, and told her to wait to hear from me before doing anything. I can call her, and she could be here in a few hours."
"Good. What about a dad?'
"Yes, but he is in England...nothing would have happened if he hadn't left," said Chloe with a defeated look on her face.
"Call him also. You came with a young man, would you like me to tell him to come see you now?"
"Okay. We're getting a room ready. A nurse will come to get you." He started walking away.
"Yes," he answered, looking at Chloe.
"Thanks for everything."
He smiled and walked away, leaving Chloe standing in the corridor. She walked back into the room. Clément was still asleep. She sat back down on the chair and passed her hand through her hair, feeling the exhaustion and stress of the night.
A light knock at the door brought her out of her daydream; Vincent poked his head through the door. "Can I come in?" Chloe nodded.
"Will he be okay, what did the doctor say?"
"Badly bruised. Nothing serious. We have to stay for the night for observation." Chloe didn't feel like giving more explanation. "Can you call Laurence again and give her directions to the hospital? Tell her to come."
"Sure," answered Vincent, walking out and softly closing the door.
While Vincent was gone, a nurse came in with pain medicine. She had to wake Clément up to give it to him, but surprisingly Clément swallowed the medicine and went back to sleep. Vincent called Laurence, and came back to the room to wait with Chloe. Shortly after midnight, they were told that a room was ready.
After tucking Clément in, Chloe turned to Vincent. "Thank you so much. Without you, I don't know what would have happened."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay until his sister gets here."
"No, we are fine. I'll call you tomorrow, and let you know what's going on."
"Okay." Vincent walked to Chloe and caressed her cheek before bending over to kiss her, but Chloe stopped him before his lips reached their goal.
"No Vincent," she said feeling exhausted.
"Sorry, bad timing. I shouldn't have, I'll go now. Call me tomorrow." Vincent smiled and left the room. Chloe was too tired to call him back and tell him that nothing between them was possible. We'll have this conversation later, she thought.
A small bed had been added to the room next to Clément and Chloe laid down on it. She was just starting to drift off to sleep when someone knocked on the door. She got out of bed, and opened the door to two policemen. One of them introduced himself as officer Geret, and explained that he was here to translate and his partner would take notes. They asked Chloe to describe everything that happened since she found Clément in the tub, to give the name of people who could prove that Beatrice was a child abuser. Chloe couldn't think of anyone besides herself, Laurence, and maybe Clément's teacher. She also told them about the time that she saw a large bruise on Clément's hip. The officers said that they wished to talk to Laurence tomorrow, and that they would be back first thing in the morning to finish the interview.
Chloe checked on Clément who was still fast asleep, she tenderly brushed his hair back and kissed him before laying back down and falling asleep.
In the middle of the night, she was woken up by a shove on her shoulder. She sat up suddenly and came face to face with Laurence.
"Shush, it's only me," said Laurence, wrapping her arms around Chloe. Chloe buried herself in Laurence's chest and hugged her tight. Laurence held her for a few heartbeats and slowly let her go. She came close to Clément and repositioned the blanket, slightly lifting the bottom of it to see the bandages wrapping his ankles. She kissed him, and whispered I love you in his ear before coming back to Chloe.
"How are you doing?" she asked, passing her hand through Chloe's hair.
"I'm so glad you're here...the police came, they want to talk to you tomorrow. Social services also wants to talk to us. Lo, we have to get in touch with your dad. I have the number in my pocket....I..."
"Slow down, slow down. It's 4 in the morning, we'll call him in a couple of hours. There is nothing he can do at this point. Let's just get some rest, okay?"
Chloe nodded, her eyes becoming teary again. ŽI don't know why I feel like crying. Clément is the one hurt," said Chloe, unable to stop the tears from falling.
"It's okay," said Laurence, tenderly kissing Chloe's forehead. "I can only imagine what would have happened if you hadn't come in and found him. Thank you." Laurence drew Chloe into her arms again. "I love you," she whispered in her ear.
The last statement made Chloe lose every beat of control she had left, and she sobbed against Laurence's chest. "How could she do that to him?" she cried. "How?"
"It's okay...shhh," said Laurence, trying to calm her. "Trust me. This will not go unpunished."
They held each other for a long time, seeking comfort in each other's presence. After a while, Laurence lay down on the makeshift bed and kept Chloe in her arms. She rubbed Chloe's back, slowly lulling her to sleep.
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